We actually spoke to new Walsall manager Dean Keates for the ‘A Foot in Both Camps’ programme feature against Peterborough back in September.
This is what the 39-year-old had to say about his playing days with the Saddlers…
Interviewer: James Eley
So Dean, being from Walsall, how exciting was it to get your breakthrough with your hometown club?
It was massive to make my breakthrough and establish myself over the years at Walsall. It is something I look back on with fond memories. I stood in the stands at Fellows Park and also at Bescot so it was fantastic to play for the club I supported.
After finishing 19th in 1997/98, Walsall came runners-up and won promotion to Division One the following season. How big an achievement was that?
It was huge. There were only two or three additions that summer but we all pulled together as a team. We finished second that season to Fulham but were ahead of the likes of Manchester City and Preston who had much bigger budgets and paid much higher wages.
Walsall returned to the second tier in 2000/01 with a 3-2 play-off final victory over Reading at the Millennium Stadium, what are your memories of that day?
To get to the final and win promotion is the best way to go up. I had all my family down there and playing at the Millennium in that terrific atmosphere was amazing. You have to play the game, not the occasion. There is a lot of hype and the roof is on and the fireworks and national anthem is playing. But as soon as that whistle goes you have to block out the fact that there are 60,000 people there.
You returned to Walsall in 2006 and helped the side win the League Two title in your first year back. As well as being named in the PFA League Two Team of the Season, you were also crowned the Saddlers’ Player of the Season. Do you consider that your best year in football?
Yes. Being leading scorer for the team and winning those accolades, on a personal level, was brilliant. I look back on that with many fond memories and to be part of a team that won the league just made it a fantastic season. I was given a little more freedom and I was allowed to break forward and express myself and it paid off.